The following is a statement posted online Wednesday by Audrey Thayer, the coordinator of the Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project (ACLU-MN) and member of Shared Vision.
Dear Bemidji Area Community Members:
We at Shared Vision/Bemidji Area Race Relations Council issue this public statement strongly condemning the recent hate crime actions in our community. As diverse members of the community, we firmly believe that the burning of a cross, inscribed with racist language, is an act of intimidation and violence. We strongly condemn this terrible action and the message in sends and we stand in solidarity with others who are committed to racial and social justice in our community.
In recent years our community has made great strides and concrete efforts in dealing with race relations and creating an equitable and welcoming environment for everyone. The Ojibwe signage project, spearheaded by a Shared Vision board member, is just one example of these efforts. However, this horrible act is a reminder that we still have much work to do. Regardless of the reasons behind this act, we must not trivialize the impact it has on both the individual victims and community. There is research that shows individuals subjected to hate crimes have an increased risk of experiencing psychological distress. Hate crimes send a message to the entire community that certain members are unwelcome and unsafe, thus creates an atmosphere of fear.
Shared Vision believes we must foster mutual under-standing, respect, and inclusion for all members if our community, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation and other categories of diversity. We believe we must lead by example and call upon other organizations, businesses, agencies and institutions to engage in sustained conversations on race relations in our community.
Shared Vision will be organizing a community roundtable to discuss the historical context of cross burning, the impact these incidents have on communities, and the ways we can address these incidents and move forward as a community. The date and location will be determined soon.